Nursery Rhymes for Disaffected Millennials

Image by the illustrious Johnny Gruelle!

Nursery Rhymes for Disaffected Millennials

Wow, guys. Sorry I missed posting Wednesday. A lot can happen in a week.

…in this case, pretty much nothing happened. But still–a lot can happen. I mean, the nuclear apocalypse could take place. The world could burn. People could die.


I’ve been quiet because I just haven’t had much to say lately. So sue me. But I HAVE been working on getting a fun little side project together.

Most of you won’t know this (why would you?) but I actually went to school for poetry. I was plainly expecting to marry someone wealthy, or win the lottery, or have a patron who recognized my greatness and just cut me checks each month for existing.

Or maybe I figured someday I would write an astonishingly deep book of poetry. So astonishingly, turgidly great, in fact, that it made Americans get over the fact that nobody likes poetry long enough to read my poetry.

I spent my adolescence in search of The Burning Verse. I just knew, somehow, that I had something profound to say. (Surprise! I didn’t). I spent a lot of time reading and pretending I understood T.S. Eliot. I made definitive inroads into being an adolescent who appreciated Ezra Pound.

At some point in college, while I was busy searching the Dionysian depths of my soul for elusive inflammatory writ, I had an unpleasant realization.

All the people I met who immediately identified themselves as ‘poets’–all the people, in short, chasing after the same paindrenched literary dream I had been chasing–were dicks.

There’s this thing about people who loudly proclaim profundity, you see. They don’t have much of a sense of humor. Too busy drinking pathetically and imagining the greatness of their own epitaphs. Too busy thinking about what they have to say. Now, I’m not saying all poets are like this, but some of them are, and you know at least one of them. I suspect the best ones aren’t: I might go as far as to say the good ones aren’t.

But there’s a definite stigma, no matter how undeserved, attached to poetry in this country. And it says poetry is gloomy. It says poetry is self-serving and indulgent. It says poetry has to be painful to be real.

And it says good poetry doesn’t rhyme. Good poetry isn’t metered. And for this stigma to exist, my dears, somebody has to be feeding it. Teenagers on message boards. Folks with dreadlocks in coffee shops. The Rimbaud look-alike dangling a cigarette from his lip in the back of the bar.

I happen to love metered poetry. I swoon over sonnets. I sway to sestinas. The stranger and more complicated the verse form, the more impressed I am when somebody’s mastered it. Poetry, to me, isn’t a matter of sturm und drang, it’s a matter of puzzles, and limits, and mental exercise. Can you write a strictly correct Spenserian sonnet and still say something worth saying? No? Your blank verse doesn’t impress me. Not until you can work with limits.

I’m not saying I dislike blank verse. When something is done well it’s done well, regardless of form. But I do think it’s time we moved past this idea that poetry is one thing or the other. This is a postmodern society. You can shit on a brick wall and call it poetry and someone will not only believe you, but think you’re sparklingly brilliant (especially, I note, if you’ve recently eaten glitter).

One qualification I see for good poetry pretty often is that poetry should ‘say something’. Of course it should. Any piece of writing should say something–if it doesn’t, why’re you wasting your time? I rarely see specified what, precisely, poetry should say, but the inference is clear–something world-rocking. Something deep.

I don’t know about deep. Usually, unless the word is used in tandem with ‘frying’, I don’t trust deep. I trust sensible and I trust funny. I also trust true, but that’s getting harder and harder to identify.

Why am I rambling like this? Because I’m introducing my collection of nursery rhymes for disaffected millennials.

Is it great poetry? No. Is it the expression of my generation? Not really. Will you be impressed by my understanding of human nature? Pfff.

But it’s funny. And if you’re of the millennial generation, it might be a little true. More, maybe, than you want to admit.

I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do with it–I could make a little book, or just post ’em up on Wattpad–but I found these darling public domain kid’s book images (by the guy who created Raggedy Ann and Andy, no less–see them and a little about him here) so now I’ve got to do something with them, even if it’s just posting it here.

At any rate, welcome to my self-indulgence project. For your pain or pleasure, here’re two of my millennial nursery rhymes:


Little Meggie Makon
likes tattoos and gourmet bacon
while bearded Willie Wooten
avoids the fuck out of gluten.

Maia, Vindra and Teagan
are, as individuals, vegan
(but when they get together
they eat pretty much whatever).

Eileen will surely panic
if her cake pop ain’t organic
though her friend Bethesda Vancer
knows essential oils cure cancer.

(Neither talk to Linda Wu,
who sometimes drinks a Mountain Dew).

When they all sit down to the Holiday table
they Instagram their meals, if they are able.
They can’t eat the food, but it’s awfully thrilling
to hear how their lives are so very fulfilling.


Some of your high school friends are sinners.
Some of your high school friends are whores.
Some of your high school friends cook dinners,
some of them mop your high school floors.

Some of your high school friends made money.
Some of them got a law degree.
Some are comics, ironically funny;
some want to make art and live rent free.

Some are suffering crises of spirit,
some are victims, repeatedly.
Some do well, and you’re happy to hear it.
Some deserve what they got, and it fills you with glee.

But when you look at Facebook
here’s the fact you can’t ignore:
all of their children
are better behaved
than yours.

2 thoughts on “Nursery Rhymes for Disaffected Millennials

  1. Proper poetry. Yes, I too prefer poetry with structure and sometimes humour (Step forward Roger McGough and Simon Armitage, for example.)

    Too many poets seem
    to think
    that they can write anything and so long
    as they break up the sentences
    lines like this
    it’s poetry

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